Jacob Matthews has gotten really sick of confessing his autobiography every time he meets someone new. Ever since coming out as a gay transgender man, Jacob feels as if no one really cares about who he is right now. Instead, they would much rather have access to his past and create another Lifetime movie out of it. The typical transgender narrative, Jacob notes, always ends in surgery or tragedy. It’s been two years since Jacob’s crossed the final marker to become who he is, and he’s running out of options of what to do next.
The only way that Jacob can overcome his own backstory is by blending in. Every Tuesday Night, he heads out to the local gay club called Boy Division and watches gay men from the sidelines. But when Jacob hooks up with a stranger who understands him with just a simple look, Jacob soon realizes that blending into the walls no longer satisfies him.
Jacob soon runs into his old friends at the LGBT community center, where he is forced to reconsider his life beyond rainbow colors and poppy disco beats. In group therapy, Jacob is confronted by the harsh realities of being transgender, hate crime violence, and the dwindling offers for his future. Just before Jacob leaves, his favorite doctor makes him a bet: if Jacob can find someone to connect to, then she will renew his testosterone prescription without question or qualm. She urges him to find some type of community, even if it’s not in the community center’s brightly painted walls.
Jacob takes the bet, figuring he has nothing to lose but his happy ending that may -- or may not -- really exist. He becomes determined to find the mystery man from the club again, even if it means blowing his cover.
Jacob pauses. The man’s hands grip his chest -- and then run over the scar on the other side. Jacob stops breathing for a moment, as the man’s mouth moves away from his neck. He looks down at Jacob’s skin with the same head tilt from before. He scans the two horizontal scars just under Jacob’s nipples on his body. His hands move to Jacob’s shoulders as he continues to hold up Jacob’s black shirt underneath to examine the area. Now that there is no way around it, Jacob braces himself. He starts to repeat the speech inside his head about being transgender, rather than tell him a lie about having heart surgery when he was a kid.
“How long?” the guy asks before Jacob has a chance to speak.
“How long ago did you get surgery?” the man asks. He lifts his eyes to Jacob.
“Um,” Jacob says. “Over a year ago. Don't worry. Everything is fine. It's healed.”
The man nods. For a brief second, Jacob believes that the man just thinks he’s had heart surgery. That he’s had some type of medical procedure and he’s asking so he doesn’t hurt him, not because he knows he’s transgender. Then the man asks, “Is this the only one?”
Jacob closes his eyes in a long blink. “Yeah. Just top surgery.”
The man takes a while, considering this. Then, when Jacob is brave enough to open his eyes, he sees the guy smile.
“I can work with that,” the man states.
“Well, I've wanted to fuck you since the first time I saw you across the club. It's going to happen, one way or another.”
“Even though ...?” Jacob asks, trailing off. He feels as if he should get his queer cred removed for not being able to say his own condition, identity, or whatever being transgender was now, out loud. Especially when the guy’s hands move across Jacob’s body as if nothing has happened, a delighted smile on his face.
“Oh yeah.” The stranger rests his hands on Jacob’s waist, and then looks him up and down again. “What's it been, at least three or four years on T?”
Jacob nods. He’s even more impressed now that the man has said T rather than testosterone. Jacob wants to scan this man's body for signs of a transition, to explain away some of his knowledge, but there is no point. Jacob has had his dick in his mouth -- and everything about that, aside from the circumcision, was completely natural.
The man trails one of his fingers over Jacob’s chest hair, just around his nipples. Though Jacob’s chest hair is minimal, the fact that he has any at all still makes him smile gleefully.
“My last boyfriend was trans,” the man explains, not taking his eyes off Jacob. “It could be dangerous coming to a club like this, you know. Not everyone here gets it.”
“I know,” Jacob says, nodding profusely. He’s seen enough gay men spout out about how vaginas, in any form, were the worst things in the world. He has heard people mutter under their breaths about the gay transgender men epidemic, calling people like him a traitor without even realizing that he was within earshot and transgender, too. Jacob sighs. “I just wanted --”
“To be left alone? To not feel difference for once?” the man suggests.
“Trust me, I get that.”
“Sure,” he says. “It's why clubs like this exist.”
Jacob nods, supposing this is true. The whole reason that it's a gay club is that you can stop asking the question. Desire is allowed to go wild and run free, because you don't need to constantly wonder if someone is gay or not or if you’re allowed to like someone. It's suddenly okay to come into a bathroom and push a stranger up against the wall and get a blowjob because he's probably into it. But the mystery man is also right about the gay crowd also having mixed images of how desire and gender identity can work together. Jacob knows that he is as much of a man as the mystery guy is -- or his last boyfriend was. Just because Jacob had to have a doctor help get him there doesn’t matter; he’s still a guy. Jacob’s heard all the slogans and read all the transgender reading material each queer kid finds that tells him he’s a wonderful and unique human being. But Jacob’s not used to people agreeing with him. And that’s why the man’s touch and his acknowledgement both mean so much to him in this moment. So much that Jacob’s afraid he’s going to fall in love or fixate too much, just because he’s found some fleeting sense of connection.
Just as the thought enters his mind, the couple in the next stall moan again. Jacob laughs and then places his hand over his mouth.
“Sorry,” Jacob mumbles. “Not to break the mood or anything ...”